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Shire panel amends proposed governance rules

SOUTH Gippsland Shire Council’s administration panel has amended the proposed governance rules, required by the new Victorian Local Government Act 2020, to include changes suggested in the one public submission received on the subject.

Meeniyan resident Clive Hope lodged one page of suggestions to the municipality’s draft governance rules after the panel called for the community’s views during a month-long public consultation period from Tuesday July 14, 2020.

The new governance rules when adopted will replace most of South Gippsland Shire’s previous local law on meeting procedures and its common seal, as well as the council’s election period policy.

Since its gazettal in May 2020, the Local Government Act 2020’s principles-based reforms ask all councils throughout the state to develop and implement a series of policies, including adopting governance rules by September 1, 2020.

At a special virtual council meeting on Wednesday August 19, 2020, the first to be held remotely via the internet, panel chair Julie Eisenbise and administrators Rick Brown and Christian Zahra voted to accept the amendments to the rules.

The panel considered Mr Hope’s submission and agreed with several of his ideas, including minor repairs to grammar, and clarifying the definition of “these rules” to “rules and sub-rules – mean these governance rules and the clauses contained within them.”

Redefining what a “majority” in clause 15 was also included as meaning that “the number of councillors which is greater than half the total number of the councillors of a council, for example, with nine (9) councillors a majority would be five (5).”

Amendments to clauses 7.4 and 7.7, clarifying mayoral and chair nomination procedures, were also accepted.

The panel also supported notifying Mr Hope of the “council’s decision” and that it “extends … appreciation for his submission.”

Administrator Rick Brown thanked Mr Hope for “taking interest in for what most people is a boring and tedious subject, to actually read the governance rules and to make the suggestions he has made.

“Governance rules are critical, they are very important and they are fundamental to the operation of the council, [and] as [Mr Hope] will see, we have taken his comments seriously,” he said.

“There are a number with which we agree and with the sentiments he has expressed, and the result is the amendments we are making to the governance rules today.”

Administrator Christian Zahra concurred with Mr Brown’s remarks and noted “we said at the beginning of this process that we would welcome and embrace commentary in relation to these proposed changes from the public.

“It’s been great that we’ve received one submission from a member of the public,” he said.

“Our decision-making gets better the more the [community] takes the time to participate in these types of public processes.

“We thank Mr Hope, and where we have found merit in his suggestions, we have incorporated the changes now proposed to be part of the new governance rules,” Mr Zahra said.

“These matters are very detailed and necessarily involve a lot of close, hard work, and I’d also like to thank the council staff who have shepherded the governance rules and the process we are finalising today,” he said.

“Obviously this is a work in progress in terms of the [Victorian] Government’s changes at the council, which form part of a broader mandate that administrators have been brought in to try and address under the broad heading of governance improvements.

“This is the context in which this matter, as small as it might be, is being dealt with, and there’s more work ahead of us in terms of making improvements to governance arrangements at South Gippsland Shire Council,” Mr Zahra said.

“We’ll continue, in relation to this and other processes, to inform and involve the public whenever we possibly can as part of the development of that effort.”

Panel chair Ms Eisenbise said she “would like to point out that the only changes [to the proposed governance rules] are to some of the grammar, but for the last one, 1.d.’ that’s just gone in today, [the amendment to clause 7.7 on mayoral or chair nominations].

“We realised that we had not covered off if there had not been a nomination for a chair or a mayor at the time, so this is allowing for that procedure so if there is no nomination it can be called for a bit later,” she said.

“This is spelled out quite clearly now, as the way is was did leave us a little exposed.”The panel acting as the shire council will formally consider the final Governance Rules 2020 (C82), including the Election Period Policy (C30) (Governance Rules) at the ordinary meeting to be held today, Wednesday August 26, 2020 from 2 pm.

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